Are you plagued by hundreds of tiny bumps on your body?
That aren’t quite pimples or ingrown hairs?
Hello and welcome to the world of keratosis pilaris.
Referred to as ‘chicken skin’, it is characterised by tiny raised bumps.
It can be an absolute confidence crusher and a cause for self-consciousness.
That’s why we put together this comprehensive guide.
On everything you need to know about this tricky condition and how to treat it.
What Does Keratosis Pilaris Look Like?
Keratosis pilaris (ker-uh-TOE-sis pih-LAIR-is) is often called chicken or strawberry skin.
It looks like tiny white pimples; whilst not harmful, it can be stubborn to treat.
- inflamed patches of skin
- rough and uneven texture
- redness and discolouration
- increase in pimples, especially during cold weather
- itchy skin, especially on legs, upper arms and even on your butt
Note: Psoriasis, eczema, and fungal infections can cause similar symptoms.
Consult a dermatologist if you’re unsure what may be causing these signs to appear, and remember to avoid keratosis pilaris popping if you want to prevent scarring.
Keratosis Pilaris Facts
- if you suffer from eczema, you are more likely to have keratosis pilaris
- what exactly causes this condition is unknown, but some reports (1) suggest it’s genetic
- like many other skin conditions, it isn’t infectious, so you can’t spread or catch it
- the bumps are usually light-coloured, but if there is inflammation, they can become red
- this is a common condition, as this study (2) indicates. It can affect 50-60% of adolescents and approximately 40% of adults
- it is commonly found on the arms, but it can also be found on the front of the thighs, back, butt, neck and even the face
- it can start early—sometimes before a child is even 2—and can flare up again during adolescence. Thankfully, it tends to fade by adulthood
- keratosis Pilaris occurs when your hair follicles become blocked with a buildup of keratin — a substance found in your skin, hair and nails
- beyond regular KP—which presents as rough bumps that can be itchy, there is keratosis pilaris rubra, which primarily affects teenage boys
Types of Keratosis Pilaris
Keratosis pilaris can manifest in various forms, ranging from flesh-coloured bumps to red, itchy skin.
The classic chicken skin appearance is characteristic of keratosis pilaris rubra, often seen in adolescent boys who suffer from rough and inflamed skin.
Causes of Keratosis Pilaris?
Keratosis pilaris may have a genetic link and is often attributed to a buildup of skin cells in the hair follicles and the hardening of these cells, known as keratinisation.
Keratin is the dominant protein found in your skin, nails, and hair and acts as a protective, waterproof structure in the epidermis (your outer layer of skin).
Understanding the precise triggers for abnormal keratinisation is complex, so let’s take a closer look at this tricky condition:
This is usually due to factors such as genetics and nutrient deficiencies.
An imbalance in the skin causes excessive keratin production; this accumulation of excess protein leads to blockages in the follicles.
This study (3) suggests that keratosis pilaris may originate in the hair shaft.
When the hair shaft breaks off in the lining of the follicle wall, this can lead to irregular follicular keratinisation and inflammation, forming a hardened protein plug, which manifests as tiny, rough bumps.
Irregular hair growth patterns
It is thought that irregular circular hair growth patterns inside the follicle can also trigger an inflammatory response that increases keratin production.
This study (4) conducted on 25 participants with a history of keratosis pilaris found that the affected hair follicles displayed a coiled structure.
This coiled hair shaft caused the hair follicle’s tissue lining to rupture, leading to inflammation, which triggered the irregular keratin buildup, suggesting that the condition originated from the hair rather than the skin cells.
Lack of vitamin A
Another theory is that those with keratosis pilaris may lack vitamin A.
This is why, as estheticians, we always recommend introducing moisturisers or oils with vitamin A in them.
Consuming foods rich in Vitamin A may also be beneficial in managing keratosis pilaris.
In this case study, our client found that regularly applying a cream with vitamin A on the affected areas significantly helped to get her condition under control.
Other contributing factors
Age: It’s more commonly observed in children and adolescents.
Medical Conditions: Conditions like Cushing’s syndrome, hypothyroidism, eczema, and allergic or autoimmune conditions such as asthma or hay fever might increase susceptibility.
BMI and Obesity: Studies (5) indicate a connection between keratosis pilaris and individuals with a high BMI or obesity.
Skin Dehydration and Pre-existing Skin Conditions: Dehydrated skin or a pre-existing condition like ichthyosis vulgaris could lead to an increased keratin buildup.
Despite these risk factors, dermatologists often view keratosis pilaris as more of a skin type than a medical condition due to its harmless nature.
To Conclude, the naked truth
In summary, keratosis pilaris often presents as dry, itchy, and bumpy skin without causing severe discomfort.
1. Keratosis pilaris atrophicans.
2. Keratosis pilaris practise essentials.
3. Keratosis Pilaris Revisited: Is It More Than Just a Follicular Keratosis?
4. Clinical outcomes and 5-year follow-up results of keratosis pilaris treated by a high concentration of glycolic acid.
5. The Link Between Obesity and the Skin.